Monday, April 24, 2017

How Safe is the Playground Where Your Child Plays? Learn what to look for during National Playground Safety Week

(Salt Lake City, Utah) – When the bell rings for recess, school children make a dash for the playground. But for nearly 1,700 children attending public elementary schools – enough students to fill 24 school buses – playgrounds will be the cause of bumps, bruises, and even broken bones. In response, the Utah Department of Health (UDOH), Salt Lake County Health Department (SLCoHD), and LuckyDog Recreation held a playground safety inspection to highlight common hazards and ways to keep children active and safe on playgrounds.

“We want to make sure that kids are getting outside and staying active but doing so safely,” said Hillary Campbell, student injury reporting technician with the UDOH. Common playground safety hazards include loose bolts, cracks in slides, inadequate or improper surfacing materials, missing or damaged parts, rusted or corroded metals, and damage caused by vandalism.

“We inspect playground equipment to make sure there are no protruding nails, frayed ropes, or broken parts,” explained Zach Torres-George, environmental health scientist with the SLCoHD. “We also look for things that people might not consider such as the distance between horizontal bars so a person’s head can’t get stuck; making sure slides are shaded or face north; and trash, broken glass, or animal droppings in the play area.”

Data from the UDOH showed that from 2012 to 2015:
  • 67.1 percent of student injuries in Utah elementary schools occurred on a playground.
  • More playground injuries occurred during 5th grade than any other grade.
  • Most elementary school playground injuries (83.6 percent) occurred during recess. The most common activities during which these injuries occurred were playing on bars (26.5 percent), running (23.5 percent), and walking (6.0 percent).
  • Falls were the cause of 37.8 percent of all playground injuries, followed by tripping or slipping (29.7 percent) and collisions (23.7 percent).
  • The top three injuries received included possible fracture/broken bone (50.2 percent), cut/laceration (14.4 percent), and bump/bruise/contusion (9.3 percent).  
Christine Christensen, principal at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School welcomes regular inspections. “We have 750 students using the playground equipment every day.  One would expect there to be wear and tear on the equipment and repairs needed. The inspections help us to be proactive in keeping the playground in good repair and ensuring the safety of all our students.”

UDOH has the following recommendations for schools to keep playgrounds safe:
  • Establish and enforce playground safety rules (such as no pushing, crowding, or shoving).
  • Always have trained adult supervisors present whenever children are playing on the equipment.
  • Develop a playground inspection and equipment maintenance checklist.
  • Promptly repair broken playground equipment and make sure proper surfacing materials are used (such as wood chips, pea gravel, shredded rubber mulch, etc.).
  • Schedule regular inspections.
Injury hazards don’t just exist on school playgrounds. Torres-George hopes that the public will be their eyes and report problems. “We can’t be everywhere all of the time so we rely on the public to help. If you’re concerned about a safety hazard at a public playground, report it to the parks and recreation department in that area.”

Tips to keep playgrounds and play surfaces safe, potential hazards to watch for, and inspection checklists can be found at

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Media Contacts:
Tammy Kikuchi, UDOH
(o) 801-538-6426
Pam Davenport, SLCoHD
(o) 385-468-4122 (m) 801-209-0986

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Empowering Bystanders to Stop Sexual Violence

(Salt Lake City, Utah) – One in three Utah women will experience some form of sexual violence during their lives. Studies also show that one in eight Utah women and one in 50 Utah men will be raped. The direct and indirect costs resulting from sexual violence in 2011 alone totaled almost $5 billion, which was about $1,700 per Utah resident. The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) will begin using a promising new strategy, called bystander intervention, to equip citizens with the skills and tools necessary to prevent sexual violence.

“Bystander intervention is simple to understand; however, it’s often not practiced because people lack the confidence and training to intervene in potentially violent situations,” explained Marty Liccardo, men’s engagement specialist with the UDOH Violence and Injury Prevention Program.

Bystander intervention occurs when someone intervenes before, during, or after a situation that is violent or harmful to another person, group, or community. For example, a bystander could interrupt an argument between friends or partners, tell someone not to bully or criticize another person, or get help for someone who is being harmed or victimized.

Research suggests bystander intervention is effective but requires practice to be successful – individuals need to learn skills and practice those skills in order to be prepared to do something when the time comes. “Many people just aren’t sure what to do to help others or they think someone else will help. Bystander intervention aims to empower people to step up and act when they hear or see harm,” said Liccardo.

This strategy is appealing to prevention professionals because it can reduce victim-blaming, shift unhealthy and negative social norms to more positive beliefs, and help every person find their place and responsibility in violence prevention.

The UDOH will offer bystander intervention trainings for community agencies to coincide with April being National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Distraction and “silent stares” or making people aware that they are being observed are just a few of the strategies that will be taught to diffuse a potentially violent situation. Other bystander intervention tips include:
  • Make sure you are safe first and will continue to be safe when you intervene.
  • Recruit others to help you.
  • If you can’t intervene safely, call for help.
“We hope the training actually moves people from being bystanders to what we call ‘upstanders’ or anyone who steps in or responds when they believe someone is being harmed,” said Liccardo.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted and needs help, call the Rape and Sexual Assault Crisis Line at 1-888-421-1100. The hotline is free and open 24 hours a day/7 days a week.

For more information about bystander intervention and sexual violence prevention, visit

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Media Contact:
Tammy Kikuchi
Violence and Injury Prevention Program
(801) 538-6426

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Preventing Youth Injury and Violence by Changing Social Norms

(Salt Lake City, Utah) – Injury is the leading cause of death for youth aged 1-19 in Utah. Today, state and local public health officials gathered at a summit sponsored by the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) and Safe Kids Utah Coalition to discuss how changing social norms in a community can decrease injuries and violence among youth.

Social norms are the perceived standards of acceptable attitudes and behaviors prevalent among members of a community. In other words, the rules of behavior that are considered normal among a group of people. These norms may change over time based on one’s surrounding environment or situation. Social norms can be as simple as shaking someone’s hand when greeting or as complex as preventing binge drinking among college students.

Michael Haines, founding director of the National Social Norms Resource Center, spoke to attendees of the Utah Safe Kids and Injury Prevention Summit. Haines has several decades of experience using social norms to change behaviors regarding alcohol and substance use, sexual violence, and injury prevention.

“Human beings are social animals. We tend to follow group norms. The Social Norms Approach uses this tendency to move people to lower their risk of injury. When people see messages like ‘Most Utah citizens think it is wrong to use violence to settle arguments’, then violent behavior is reduced,” remarked Haines

Those attending the summit discussed how social norms strategies could be used to curb the number of suicides among Utah youth. Data from the UDOH showed that suicide was the leading cause of death for youth aged 10-17 in Utah in 2015. “There are several effective social norms strategies we are beginning to use in Utah. First, emphasizing to people experiencing suicidal thoughts that they are not alone. Second, that effective help is available. And third, that recovery is within reach,” said Andrea Hood, UDOH suicide prevention coordinator. “We are also striving to change social norms to let people know there are effective treatments for mental health conditions and countless stories of survival.”

Sexual violence prevention efforts are changing too. About 30 percent of Utah high school students who are dating experience some form of dating violence. “In terms of violence and sexual violence, we want to change social norms by promoting more equitable gender norms and decreasing acceptance of violence, thereby creating more equal and healthy relationships,” said Megan Waters, UDOH violence prevention specialist.

Haines hopes attendees start to view social norms as an effective tool for preventing violence and injury.

To learn more about violence and injury prevention, visit http://

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Media Contact:
Tammy Kikuchi
Violence and Injury Prevention Program

Monday, March 13, 2017

News Advisory: Preventing Youth Injury and Violence by Changing Social Norms

What: Social norms are unwritten rules about how to behave in a particular social group or culture. Public health experts from across the state will discuss how changing social norms in a community can reduce injuries and violence among youth in Utah. 

Why: Violence and injury are the leading causes of death for Utah youth aged 1-19. Suicide was the leading cause of death for Utahns aged 10-17 in 2015. Nearly 30 percent of Utah high school students who are dating experience dating violence. Using social norms to change behaviors surrounding issues like suicide and dating violence is an innovative and effective strategy.
Who: Michael Haines, a nationally recognized expert in health promotion and social norms, is the keynote presenter for the Utah Safe Kids and Injury Prevention Summit.
When: Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Keynote speech
10:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Media availability with Michael Haines
11:30 a.m. to Noon

Where: Viridian Event Center
Room C
8030 South 1825 West
West Jordan, UT 84088


Media Contact:
Tammy Kikuchi
Violence and Injury Prevention Program

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Utah Public Health Officials Issue Warning About Peanut Butter Substitute

(Salt Lake City, UT) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), multiple states, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are investigating a multistate outbreak of E. coli infections. The investigation has revealed I.M. Healthy brand soy nut butter and I.M. Healthy granola products may be contaminated with E. coli bacteria and are a likely source of the outbreak. 

No E. coli cases associated with this outbreak have been reported in Utah, although the products are sold in Utah stores. Food safety inspectors from the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) are contacting Utah distributors and grocery store chains to ensure recalled products are removed from shelves. Inspectors have found some products on some store shelves and have worked with stores to have the products removed. 

Sixteen people from nine states have been infected with E. coli associated with the outbreak. Eight of those individuals were hospitalized and five developed a type of kidney failure. No deaths have been reported. 

Utahns should stop eating all varieties of I.M. Healthy brand soy nut butter and granola products. Childcare centers, schools, and other institutions should stop serving these products and check their food storage area for soy nut butter products from I.M. Healthy. The products have a shelf life of two years.

“Even if some of the soy nut butter or granola was eaten or served and no one got sick, throw the rest of the product away. Put it in a sealed bag in the trash so that children, pets, or other animals can't eat it,” said Laine McCullough, epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health.

Consumers who have purchased I.M. Healthy soy nut butter may return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-800-288-1012, Monday-Friday 8:00-4:00 MST.

E. coli symptoms vary but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. Most people get better within 5–7 days, but some infections are severe or even life-threatening. Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure, is a potentially life-threatening complication of E. coli infection. Very young children and the elderly are more likely to develop severe illness and kidney failure than others, but even healthy, older children and young adults can become seriously ill.

Contact your healthcare provider if you have diarrhea that lasts for more than three days, or is accompanied by high fever, blood in the stool, or so much vomiting that you cannot keep liquids down and you pass very little urine. More information about E. coli can be found at

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Media Contacts:
Rebecca Ward (UDOH)
(o) 801-538-6682
(m) 801-352-1270
Larry Lewis (UDAF)
(o) 801-538-7104
(m) 801-514-2152